This is another installment of “Magatama: Moon and Tara’s Saga”. View the parent page to read the complete introduction and for links to read the previous installments in the correct order.
Content warning (for the overall story, not necessarily in every installment): domestic violence, explicit sexual content, general violence, emotional/verbal/psychological abuse, queer issues.
Dae’s phone buzzes while he and his roommate are watching Ali Wong and Randall Park have a conversation at a market in UN Plaza in San Francisco’s Civic Center area about halfway through the Netflix movie Always Be My Maybe.
Angelica looks over at him from the recliner and asks, “Need me to pause the movie in case it’s Tara texting?”
A big grin crosses Dae’s face and then he starts to laugh. “You know me so well. Yes, please.”
Angelica presses pause from her phone while Dae grabs his phone from the coffee table.
“Is it her? What’d she say?” Angelica asks.
After unlocking the phone with his fingerprint, and swiping around the screen, Dae sees the message is indeed from Tara, and reads it. Google Tara (Buddhism). What about you? What inspired the crescent moon?
“She completely ignored the part of my message where I tried to flirt with her and answered as if we were having a platonic conversation.” Dae pulls a face that bares his teeth, and scrunches up his forehead, expressing his worry.
Angelica laughs at him. “Dude, I’m sure you’re overthinking it. The important thing is she replied.”
“I just feel stupid now because she told me to Google a Buddhist deity to learn about the inspiration for her costume, and I feel like I should’ve picked up on that already.”
Angelica raises an eyebrow at him. “Why?”
After momentarily biting on his lower lip, Dae answers. “Well, a, she’s named herself after the deity, and b, I studied archaeology and have traveled around Asia exploring our ancestral history before I became a history teacher. Just because I come from an agnostic family doesn’t mean I don’t know a thing or two about religions across the continent our ancestors are from. I mean, my goodness, South Korea is even like a quarter Buddhist!”
Whilst processing this, Angelica places the tips of her fingers together and fans them out in front of her, then, whilst her hands are still in that position, places her index fingers on her chin and her middle fingers on her upper lip.
“You have thoughts.” It’s not a question, Dae just wants to know what Angelica is thinking.
“Well,” Angelica says, as she takes her hands away from her face again, then clasps them together, “the way I see it is you have two ways you can play this. You can either play it like you don’t know everything you do, maybe because you want to prevent her from figuring out your true identity, which would be easier to figure out the more she knows about you. Or you could impress her with your knowledge.” Angelica pauses for a moment. “Or I guess the third option is to ignore it entirely. S’up to you.”
“I’d rather be honest with her. It’s not like sharing my knowledge will lead to any kind of identity discovery. It’s highly unlikely we’ve crossed paths in,” Dae air quotes with his fingers for the next word, “‘reality,’ and if things progress the way I’d like them to, and we reach a point of sharing our identities, I don’t want her to think I deliberately deceived her on that. Thanks, Ange.”
Angelica nods at Dae’s phone. “So text her back already.”
Dae chuckles. “Alright, already!”
By this point, Dae has to unlock his phone again before he can text his reply. Now that he’s home, he decides to write something more substantial than what he’s written to her thus far.
Aha, like the deity, huh? You don’t have to answer anything you’re not comfortable with, but you’ve piqued my curiosity now. Is she the source of your power? Are you or your family from Tibet, or Nepal?
In answer to your question, and so it’s not just me trying to get personal info out of you, the moon is essentially the source of my power. Or, rather, it’s the shape of the amulet that gives me the ability to warp. I don’t think I put as much thought into things as it seems like you did.
He hits send, then asks Angelica, “Do you think it would be too early for me to explain to her how I came across the magatama?”
“Probably, yeah.” Angelica looks up at the television. “You ready to start the movie again?”
Dae nods. “May as well keep me distracted in case it takes her a while to respond again.”
Fifteen minutes later, they’re watching Keanu Reeves and Randall Park fight in a hotel room of the Fairmont Hotel when Dae’s phone buzzes once more. Angelica automatically pauses the film for Dae.
“Maybe we finish the movie later?” Angelica asks.
“Let me check the message first, see what she says.”
Dae checks his phone and reads the message. How about we continue this conversation in person? Back at the house you took me to last night? I can be there in about 90 minutes.
“We’ll be able to finish the movie,” Dae says.
He texts back a quick, See you then. x
“Okay, press play.”
Angelica unpauses the movie. Dae’s phone buzzes again, but he puts his index finger up to Angelica and wags it back and forth to indicate she need not hit the pause button. He glances quickly at the message, and it’s only a simple, xx response.
He takes a deep breath and lets out a sigh of relief. A kiss response suggests he hasn’t blown things yet.
Tara is not around yet when Dae arrives at the foreclosed property, but that was to be expected, since he deliberately arrived early, warping there in tow of some foldable picnic chairs, cushions, a couple of blankets, inflatable mattress, and inside a backpack: a bottle of pinot noir, a couple of plastic cups, a few candles, and a lighter. He wanted to have some time to set up somewhere moderately comfortable for them to sit and talk and also see each other in the otherwise empty building.
He’s finishing up lighting candles in the house’s main room when he hears a knock on the door. Immediately, Dae moves his aviator goggles from his beanie-covered forehead to cover his eyes, then warps to the front door to answer it. His eyes meet those of a green-faced woman, and he smiles.
“Good to see you again, Tara,” he says.
“And you, Moon.” She looks past him and notices his minor attempt at decorating. “Looks a little more homey than last night.”
Dae nods at her with a smile, takes her hand to lead her inside, then shuts the door behind them.
“Sit wherever you like,” Dae says, gesturing to the picnic chairs and inflated air mattress covered in blankets and cushions.
Tara makes her way to the mattress and lays down on it, making herself comfortable. She settles into a position on her side with her arm in a triangle shape and the palm of her left hand props up her head. The gold-feathers in her crown glimmer from the candlelight. She still looks exactly as Dae described in his text to her—powerful, sexy, and scary. Dae feels like the third eye painted in the middle of her forehead could see right through him.
After Dae takes a picnic chair to set up and sit opposite her about six feet away, Tara asks, “I guess you didn’t have any plans tonight if you were able to get all this ready before I arrived.”
“Actually I was in the middle of watching a movie when you messaged me about getting together.”
“Is that so? What movie?”
Dae doesn’t even think twice about whether or not his movie choice might be embarrassing to admit to. “That new Asian American romcom, Always Be My Maybe.”
“I heard Daniel Dae Kim is in that.”
Dae freezes momentarily. Though he did see the actor in the film, there’s a disconnect between that and partially hearing his real name that it takes a little while for his brain to process what was actually said, and that it wasn’t actually Tara referring to him by his real identity.
“Oh, yeah, for a little while. He wasn’t a major character. It was kinda like Ali Wong wanted all the most famous Asian American actors to appear in the movie with her, I guess.”
“I liked him in Hawaii Five-O,” Tara says. “But I’m getting sidetracked. I said we’d continue the conversation we were texting about. You said a lot and I wanted to reply, but I didn’t want text evidence.”
“You don’t have to answer anything you don’t want to. I’ll understand; it was your idea to keep our identities private so I don’t want you to feel like you have to reveal anything about your identity that you don’t want to.”
“I won’t be. I’m more… canceling things out for you, as I’m neither Tibetan, nor Nepalese. I don’t get my power from the goddess, and to be honest I haven’t been a practicing Buddhist in years. I just came across her as I was researching how I wanted to identify as I used my powers for good, and taking on her name felt right. Like, the more I read about her, the more I felt like I had someone whispering in my ear that she was who I was becoming.”
Dae smiles. “I like that. Sounds much more thoughtful than my own experience. I confess that once you texted me that, I felt a bit stupid, because I’ve learned about her in the past. I take it you’ve taken on her protector side?”
“You’d be correct in that assumption. That’s why I paint my face green and not white. What else do you know about her?”
He leans forward a bit and clasps his hands together while resting his forearms on his thighs. “If I recall correctly, Tara translates to ‘star,’ which honestly, makes me can’t help but wonder if there’s some higher power out there pulling strings to get us together. I mean, Moon and Star, really? That’s silly, right?”
Tara switches up her position to sit cross-legged on the mattress, then shrugs. “I dunno, I feel like stranger things have happened. In a world where you and I have special powers, that doesn’t seem too far-fetched. Or maybe it’s just a funny coincidence.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“Why do you feel like you need to sit so far away?” Tara asks. “Why didn’t you join me here when I chose the mattress? I assumed you brought it to offer it as a choice so we could, I don’t know, maybe cuddle if you don’t want to go further than that yet.”
“I don’t like to presume anything. Consent matters to me. Would you like me to join you?”
There’s a short pause before Tara replies again. “Can you spoon me?”
“Yeah, of course, anything you want.” Dae gets out of the picnic chair, then sits behind Tara on the mattress, and wraps an arm around her. “Like this, or laying down?”
Tara places a hand on Dae’s arm around her waist, and starts moving, motioning for Dae to join her in laying down. Dae props his head up the way Tara had earlier, so that he’s still able to see the side of her face.
“I’m getting the sense you haven’t been held like this for a while,” Dae says. Before Tara can respond, he adds, “To be honest, it’s been a while for me, too. Maybe that’s part of why I choked on you last night.”
“You don’t need to explain yourself,” Tara says. “Honestly, though I wanted more in the moment, it was refreshing that you wanted to make sure I was comfortable. That you were okay with taking things slower. It’s… that’s… not something I’ve had much experience with from the men in my lifetime.”
“I’m an open book, Tara. I’ll share as much or as little as you want me to, and I promise to always be honest. I think if things go well between us, I’ll eventually want to know about who you truly are, but not before you’re ready.”
“Thank you.” Tara moves her arm to slide Dae’s hand between her leggings-covered thighs.
Dae begins to feel blood rushing to his groin, and he’s a little concerned about what Tara might be able to feel, so he inches his pelvis back a bit.
“Please don’t pull away,” Tara says. “I want to feel your animalistic reactions.”
Dae kisses Tara’s hair and moves his pelvis closer again. This elicits a slight moan from Tara’s mouth, and causes her to move Dae’s hand again. Now he can feel the reaction he’s elicited from the other end of her body, seeping through her leggings, and whatever she may be wearing underneath them. She’s not wearing the shorts she wore the night before—this time a skirt is worn over the leggings. Dae can’t tell if that’s because she knew she wouldn’t need to store anything in her shorts, or if she wanted him to have the easier access he currently has.
“We probably shouldn’t drink the wine I brought,” Dae blurts out.
“I just mean… only that, if anything more than this”—Dae emphasizes this word with his middle finger stroking between her legs, which causes her to moan again—“happens, I don’t want it to be because we weren’t sober.”
Tara removes Dae’s hand from between her legs, and his immediate instinct is that she’s had enough for tonight. Instead, she turns around, rolls him onto his back, and climbs atop him, straddling her legs on either side of his body. She presses her wet leggings into his erection, and it’s Tara’s turn to elicit a moan from him. Then Tara leans down and kisses him gently, as if she’s also being cautious because of her make-up. Dae’s arms both wrap themselves around Tara’s back to pull the rest of her body closer to his.
As this happens, Tara is unable to do much more than slight gyrations against his crotch, but Dae still thinks they should be taking things as slow as possible. As much as he wants nothing more than to lift up her halter top and start sucking her nipples, Dae resists this urge, preferring to let Tara take the lead.